The Epic Tomato Trial

Title toms

We had a notion that we could grow massive amounts of tomatoes.  We like tomatoes.  A lot.
We make and can salsa, spaghetti sauce, hot sauce, stewed tomatoes, tomato soup concentrate, and we’re may even try ketchup this year!  All of this stuff takes a tremendous amount of tomatoes.  Cooking up a batch of soup, takes many, many pounds of tomatoes.  Since we prefer to eat from the pantry rather than the grocery store, we need a truckload of tomatoes.  Here is where the Epic Tomato Trial begins.

Our property came with a small 9-row vineyard.  The previous residents installed a trellis system, drip irrigation and planted wine grapes.  For the past couple of years, we’ve harvested the grapes and I’ve steamed them to make grape juice.  While we’ve enjoyed the grape juice, we didn’t feel that we needed nine, 80 foot rows of wine grapes.  As I began to mow between the vineyard rows this spring, I was annoyed that we spent quite a bit of time, energy and fuel to take care of a vineyard that we really weren’t very passionate about.  Then, Eureka!  A brainstorm.

Will and I had a great discussion about the cost-versus-benefit regarding the water, the mowing, the work and all that is required to grow crops in the high prairie.  We decided that wine grapes were not really where we wanted to spend our resources but tomatoes were!

I started a whole bunch of heirloom, organic tomatoes from seed early in the spring that were ready to go in the ground.  There were way, way too many plants for our regular garden plot, so we removed three rows of grapes, and left six (for now.)   Will tilled the rows, preparing them for the seedlings.  You’ll also notice that we added a row between the existing grapevine rows since I really didn’t need the tomato rows to be 8-9 feet apart like the existing vineyard rows are.  So we ended up 6 new tomato rows after removing the three rows of grapevines.

rototilling toms

In case you’re wondering, Will is wearing a blue bandana tucked into his ball cap to keep the sun off his ears and neck.  Its looks a little goofy here, blowing up his head in the wind, but avoiding sunburn is worth the goofy look.

little toms

The girls helped plant our two varieties, a large yellow tomato called Gold Medal and a great red tomato named Brandywine.  Three rows of each kind, totaling approximately 280 plants if they all survive.

medium toms

With some straw mulch and a drip line, they were growing strong the first week of July.  I know that seems late, but keep in mind, we had nearly 15″ of snow on Mother’s Day, and we’re at 5220′ elevation, so its not unusual for us to wait until late August for a ripe tomato.  We’ve got a bunch of blossoms not and they’re setting on like crazy!

green tom

This week the girls helped put stakes next to each plant.  We’re hoping to give them a little extra support against the hot, Wyoming wind.

staking up vines

If we have extra, we’ll take them to the local Farmer’s market and share with family and friends.  I’m always looking for good recipes for sauce and salsa, so shoot me a message if you have one to share!  And as always, we’re keeping out fingers crossed against severe thunderstorms and hail!

Peace, love and awesome sauce!

– Jana




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